In High Demand
Why college basketball players are getting drafted by the MLB.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
It’s been a while – roughly six years – since I hung up the spikes junior year in high school and ditched baseball to focus exclusively on basketball. Does this week’s rather ridiculous story of former Saint Mary’s hoops star Mickey McConnell being drafted in the 31st round (944th overall) of MLB’s draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers four years removed from his last competitive baseball game mean there’s hope for guys like me making a comeback?
Absolutely not. For some reason (as a struggling Dodger fan, believe me, I wish I had the answer) the Blue Crew saw enough in the former Mesa, AZ shortstop to draft him in a relatively high position for someone who, in his own words, “would hit a little bit” in the summers.
If this year’s baseball draft has confirmed one thing to sports fans, it’s that trained and conditioned basketball players are very attractive crossover sport candidates.
McConnell has managed to parlay his outstanding four-year career at Saint Mary’s and his complete lack of recent baseball experience into potential professional endeavors in the NBA (according to Saint Mary’s, he will be working out with the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings this week) and Major League Baseball, an extremely admirable accomplishment, no matter how it gets done.
But Mickey doesn’t seem to be an outlier. It’s not odd for athletes to be sought after in multiple sports … happens all the time. Theory being: An athlete is an athlete is an athlete. But for whatever reason, a college basketball background seems to be the flavor of the month for Major League front offices.
American University 6-8, LEFTY forward Stephen Lumpkins (thanks to CBS’s Matt Norlander for this) is leaving the Eagles after being drafted in the 13th round as a pitcher by the Kansas City Royals, despite not playing baseball for three years (obviously the game changes when you are a enormous southpaw, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve last played catch).
The same goes for highly touted 6-6 St. John’s recruit Amir Garrett, who happens to be left handed and own a 96 mph fastball. After renewing his commitment to baseball this March, Garrett was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 22nd round earlier this week.
It’s not a new trend, just a reappearing one. Basketball players (especially tall, left-handed ones) can be just as useful on the baseball diamond as they are on the hardwood.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.